Not holding our breath
No one can disagree with the series of initiatives that form the substance of the collaboration between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on the issue of crime in East Port of Spain.
While many of the proposed measures are hardly new, having been bandied about for years, the cooperation between the rival parties does indeed bring a new element into the equation. On the basis that two heads are a lot better than one, the public will hope to be spared the missteps that have tended to accompany the People’s Partnership Government’s implementation of strategies.
The approach outlined by both leaders suggests a multifaceted strategy designed to streamline the management systems of the police service, enhance its material and human resources and tighten the criminal justice system. While on paper, it all sounds very useful, raising our hopes at this stage would be premature.
If we sound a little jaded, it is because none of these strategies is new. It has long been clear that we do not have an effective system for developing and selecting the best candidate for Commissioner. We also already know that there are no shortcuts to a fully resourceful Police Service with enough people and equipment. Even so, providing more and better-equipped cars are more of the same, as is the plan to train and involve Special Reserve Police officers.
If they didn’t know it before, the disaster of the Defence Amendment Bill should have taught the Government that it would have been better off working to fill the large number of vacancies in the Police Service instead of trying to change the law to allow the precepting of soldiers.
The idea of tightening the law to better protect witnesses and to review the anti-gang legislation and the Bail Act speak more to improving weak legislation than to developing new strategy.
While all of these initiatives are important, the question is whether they will be enough to bring crime under control and to turn the situation around. The dimensions of the problem of crime are so broad and deep, that no one approach will inspire confidence.
This is where one would have expected the Ryan Committee’s plan on crime to guide the way. Unfortunately, given its very limited insight into the problem, the plan has provided little guidance to the Government’s effort.
The proposed plan for the redevelopment of East Port of Spain is another useful component in a more sustainable effort against crime. However, in the context of daily murders, a medium-term plan does not offer the immediate relief that we all seek.
From whatever angle the problem is contemplated, a top priority now must be to get guns out of the hands of those caught up in the crime wave and, even more importantly, to disrupt the supply of guns and drugs at the source. Rounding up youngsters by the scores cuts no ice with a public that is still waiting to catch Mr Big.